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Is Robin Cleveland or Marwan Muasher next? (UPDATE) The Financial Times implicates new World Bank Vice President of External Affairs, plus Wolfowitz advisor Robin Cleveland, in a plot to mislead the public. The apparently tried to blame the former general counsel and the ethics committee for approving Shaha Riza's external assignment to the State Department. When news of the FT story broke in the Bank just now, External Affairs VP Marwan Muasher left the World Bank communications staff cocktail reception in the atrium, and headed to the 12th Floor where the president and his top team reside.
The key events that caused this rush upstairs...
Ms Cleveland met Marwan Muasher, the newly arrived director for external relations, on April 4 to discuss how to respond to leaks about the terms and conditions awarded to Ms Riza.
They agreed on a statement that was to be briefed on an anonymous or “background” basis by senior bank officials. This included the apparently misleading claim that “after consultation with the then general counsel, the ethics committee of the board approved an external assignment agreement which was reached with the staff member”.
Mr Muasher confirmed the agreed text with Ms Cleveland in an e-mail, a copy of which has been seen by the FT, and its authenticity has been attested to by two bank officials. The statement was then briefed to the FT and other media organisations by senior bank officials.
The claim that the agreement was approved by the ethics committee after consultation with the general counsel was immediately disputed by Roberto Danino, then general counsel, and Ad Melkert, then chairing the ethics committee.
The interim report by the panel found no evidence that the terms and conditions “had been commented on, reviewed or approved by the ethics committee, its chairman or the board”.
The panel also said it was told by Mr Danino “he was not involved in any way in the implementation of the ethics committee advice”.
In his defense Mr Muasher, former deputy prime minister of Jordan, may well tell people that he had been at the World Bank for just 2½ weeks when he met Robin Cleveland on 4 April. But caution would have been very advisable on such a sensitive matter at an early stage of his Bank career. It would be hard to rebuild confidence among Bank staff, the media and others on his public announcements if he stays.
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